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Planning new stories

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Now that my 42.000 words are almost in the can1, I’m thinking about what next?. And today I chanced upon an online article that gave me an idea. The piece, found on ListVerse through a shared link on Facebook, is called 10 Mysterious Discoveries That Still Puzzle Archaeologists, and it is worth a read. There is also a companion piece that I found equally suggestive, called 10 Stolen Pieces Of Art That Have Never Been Found. No self-respecting fan of Indiana Jones could read such a list without getting ideas, right? And I was reminded of a book I have here on my shelf, called The Seventy Great Mysteries of the Ancient World, by Brian Fagan. That’s a database of great story ideas, right? Grant...
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A bag marked swag

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I’m just out of a day in which I wrote about 15.000 words, so I’m a bit intoxicated by the fatigue and all that, and I’ll be rambling. You’ve been warned. And I’ll start this with a song, a song I already posted in the past (I’m pretty sure about it), but believe, it’s on topic, and you should listen to it before you go on.   It’s good, isn’t it? I love this song, and I was absolutely surprised and delighted when a while back I caught an interview of Paddy McAloon, the author and singer (and the guy that plays all instruments on this track), and he was saying that this song is not about jewel heists, but actually about writing. And I thought, damn, yes!1 And not just because I’d love to be t...
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Karavansara Free Library: 7 books by Sven Hedin

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The Karavansara Free Library does Sven Hedin, and it’s quite a feat. A true explorers’ explorer, Hedin had a colossal output of writings, and he is certainly one of the essential authors when it comes to Central Asia and the Silk Road. “Geographer, topographer, explorer, photographer, travel writer, and illustrator of his own works”, to quote Wikipedia, Hedin did more than anyone else for the exploration of Central Asia, and his accounts are a collection of sharp scientific observation, anecdotal narrative and adventure. Sometimes more academical than the works of Rosita Forbes and Emily Hahn, Hedin’s books can sometimes sound a tiny little bit self-celebratory, but really, the man was all o...
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The strange case of the vanishing post

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… which would make for a good, if derivative, Holmes pastiche. But after all, aren’t all pastiches derivative?1 The fact is, my scheduled post from last night vanished without a trace come the morning – which is somewhat apt, in a fantasy/horror sort of way, but it also means I’ll have to rewrite it from scratch. It’s the second time something like this happens in ten years of blogging. The first was about two years ago, on my Italian blog. I was going through a massive writing bout back then, too.Rule for survival: NEVER schedule your post late at night when suffering from sleep deprivation. In other news, I’ve started re-watching the Jeremy Brett Holmes series, and might, one day, write ab...
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Better Never Told: day 3

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Third day, and five thousand words done, and it was harder than I expected. In part because all of a sudden I found myself lost, with the classic “where do we go from here?” moment of panic, and in part because my friend Marina (that will be a beta reader when this adventure is over) found a way to distract me at about 500 words from the finish line. But I made it. Now Rose, the main character, is fully rounded, and motivated. We know her background, and know she won’t give in when faced with darkness. The seeds of future discoveries have been planted, and evil has made its first incursion in the ordered and quiet life of Rose. Now the dread “first third” of the novel lurks – and tomorrow I’...
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The Road of Kings: Conan and Italian Opera (probably)

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Sometimes good ideas are not. Foreign-sounding names for characters, for instance. Apart from the vaguely Welsh/Gaelic/Tolkienoid elves and the alphabet soup of Lovecraftian monsters (of which my favorite, if apocryphal, remains “Shuub-Wankalot”), a name can make or break a character. A basic trick I was taught long ago when naming secondary characters in my fantasy stories is to select a geographic area that somehow has the same feel of the place from which my character comes, get a map, jot down a few place names, and then tweak them a little, moving vocals around or cutting and pasting names. Et voilà, instant names for characters. The method can backfire spectacularly – in the 1959 versi...
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Better Never Told: day 2

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Day two is gone, I did my 4000 words, and I also met a little problem. Nothing technical, really. Just like on day one, I started at 6 pm, and in half an hour I hammered out a nice 500-words scene. Then I stopped, I took a walk – I had been working at a translation all day long – and then prepared dinner.I was back at the keyboard at 7.40, with Imelda May’s latest album, Life, Love, Flesh, Blood, going as background. And I got a call from a friend. I set up her blog about eight months ago, but sometimes in these months she decided she did not like the way it looked anymore, so she tried to change it herself, and basically made a mess. As a result, I spent until 9 pm doing virtual help desk d...
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Robert M. Pirsing: zen and motorbikes

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About two hours ago I wrote “and now I’ll write a post for tomorrow”. In those two hours, I received the news of the death of Robert M. Pirsing, the bestselling author of Zen and the art or motorcycle maintenance, originally published in 1974 after 121 publishers had rejected it. And as I was writing a few lines about him on my Italian blog, I realized that Zen, that I read in the mid-80s when I started taking an interest in zen philosophy, is a book that touched me deeply, certainly one of the ten, or fifteen, or fifty books that are essential in my library, that made me what I am. And also, it is a book about which I never think, a book I never remember when those lists of essential books ...
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Karavansara Free Library: Six books by Emily Hahn

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The Internet Archive is a treasure trove of free ebooks somehow related to Karavansara’s themes and topics. We started the Karavansara Free Library with a few titles from Rosita Forbes, and now we follow up with another woman I find absolutely fascinating: Emily Hahn. Another traveler, journalist and adventuress, American Emily Hahn was the woman that attended posh parties in Shanghai in the ’30s in the company of a diaper-wearing monkey – a fact that I mentioned in my novel The Ministry of Thunder, and I was criticized for writing rubbish. Ah! Emily Hahn was also an expert on primates, a walking, breathing scandal, an opium addict (for a while), and a damn fine writer. In her career as a wr...
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42K words in 7 days? OK, let’s do it.

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It must be an April sort of thing. In April 2012 I wrote a novel in six days – I started on the 25th of April and finished on the night of the first day on May.I did it because I wanted to test what Michael Moorcock said in the lengthy interview he did with Colin Greenland, published as Death is no Obstacle. Moorcock talked about writing a fantasy story in three days – and I planned taking twice as much to be on the safe side. I was also pretty fed-up with the talk about art, inspiration and the writer being some sort of mutant that taps some unknown source of writing power and blah blah blah. To me writing is skill, dedication and hard work. It’s a craft, it can be learned. There’s nothing ...
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Wine, sex and folk horror (and other things)

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Despite the general sleepiness that comes with Spring, I’m trying to clear my desk of my backlog of stories, articles and translations I need to deliver to my clients, and in the meantime I’m trying to work on a pair of submissions and a couple of self-published things. The new Buscafusco story is 75% done, and I’d like to nail its box shut by the end of the month.Also, the Dean Wesley Smith book Writing a Novel in Seven Days is making me itchy to try. As I mentioned, I did it once already, and the novel I wrote in eight days later became The Ministry of Thunder, of which I am well pleased, as are my readers (eight 5-star reviews! hooray!) Now I’m wondering if it would be feasible to try and...
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Writing a little/Writing a lot

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Yesterday I overheard an interesting discussion, and that’s what I’d like to tell you about, but first, a heads-up. I mentioned in the past the StoryBundle as one of the tools that I am using to keep reading in these times of money shortage and other disasters. They have an offer up called The Write Stuff Bundle 2017 which is highly recommended – you get books about writing by the likes of Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Lawrence Block and Dean Wesley Smith, among others. You also get an 80% discount on Writer’s Café, an excellent writing software. You don’t pay much, and a share of your money goes to a charity. Nice and smooth1. Now I mention this because the bundle includes Dean Wesley Smith’s Wri...
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Karavansara Free Library: Nine books by Rosita Forbes

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I was putting together my latest post, the one about the reading list, and I got back to thinking about Rosita Forbes. Old-time readers of Karavansara will remember that I did a post about Rosita Forbes in the earliest days of this blog, basically because I am in love with the lady. To recap: independent and adventurous, Rosita married young, divorced, sold her wedding ring and left for good. She did a gig driving an ambulance during the Great War. Then she embarked in a tour of the world with a friend, gatecrashed the Paris Peace Conference, did a bit of spying for the British, and was a pioneer of documentary cinema. And found a lost city in the Sahara desert. She met both Hitler and Musso...
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The Karavansara summer reading list for students (and everybody else)

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I don’t know how it is there where you are sitting, but hereabouts schools are about to close for summers, and teachers are busy assigning homework and projects and stuff. One of the things that hit the kids every year is the dread read at least five books from this list list. I always hated that when I was in high-school – I usually approached summer with a stack of a dozen big books I wanted to read, and here I was forced to slip more dull novels in the mix. And now I’m told that with the lowering standards of our school they are reducing the required reads to three, but you get the idea. And I thought, why not put together my own suggested reading list? For kids out there, high-school lev...
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Planning a Silk Road adventure with (and without) Google Maps

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I chanced on one of those things that happen on Facebook, a guy asking his followers If you cold go on a big adventure, what would it be? Or something to that effect. Now I don’t have to think a lot about it – granted, it’s a big world and there’s adventures everywhere, but my first, instinctive response is the usual From Paris to Shanghai by car, following the Silk Road If you’re here, you know I love the Silk Road, its history, its stories – going along the old road, driving leisurely in my car, would be a dream come true. Stop to look at the landscape, take a few photos, eat a bite… And when I say car, I’d mean my old reliable Panda – a tin can on wheels if ever there was one, so basic an...
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On a country hike with Alfred Watkins

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Today is Easter monday, and traditionally it is the day dedicated to field trips and picnics. With my brother, we are planning a short hike across the hills here where we live – a matter of a few miles, following dirt paths through the vineyards. We’ll take a few photos, taking our time and enjoying the quiet, and make it to a place where we will find ice cream. Because that’s our goal – ice cream! Once our ice cream raid is done, we’ll walk back. And I’ll be carrying in my small rucksack, my copy of Alfred Watkin’s The Ley Hunter’s Manual from 1927. That is a bogus sort of pamphlet, and scandalised my old colleagues back in the days of fieldwork for the university, but it’s a fun thing anyw...
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The folk horror of Piedmontese Neogothic

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Folk Horror. Apparently the tag was coined by Mark Gatiss in 2010, and used to describe a certain genre of very British horror movies that focused on the countryside, its people and its folklore, its legends and superstitions. The three movies that form the core of the genre are Michael Reeves’ historically accurate nightmare Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s delicately-titled The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and Robin Hardy’s classic The Wicker Man (1973). A lot of stuff follows, including some of the things that creeped me out the most when I was a kid, to wit Children of the Stones, a rather scary 1977 occult serial from ITV. It was supposed to be kid’s entertainment, but boy wa...
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Enable Your Reblog Button


A post I think makes a good point. Share! HarsH ReaLiTy Why is reblogging so important? Think of WordPress like a river and from that river come smaller streams that are each individual’s personal “reader.” The Reader is that button in the top left corner that takes you to all the active posts being shared publicly by tag or that you follow. The word “active” is important in this sentence because the posts are shown in real time, as they are being posted, unless you are lucky and get placed into these new features they are creating. Most of us Users use the reader to store and separate the bloggers from the other bloggers we don’t read… like Gary. What does the reblog button do in this ...
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A story of two books

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I mentioned this story in the past, but never wrote about it in detail – here goes. I’ve been reading about the Silk Road for ages. I started as a kid, with a much-edited and simplified version of Marco Polo’s Il Milione, and then with the Arabian Nights and then all the rest.Journey to the West was another instigating read. Then, one day, during a raid in a Turin bookstore, I chanced upon Luce Boulnois’ La Via della Seta, the Italian translation of a book called Silk Road: Monks, Warriors & Merchants. The book had actually been written in French, and published in 2001, as a summation of the research the author had carried out since 1963, and has been translated in a number of languages ...
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Wild West Spooks

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I took some time with a good book this weekend – Undead in the West, that with the subtitle Vampires, Zombies, Mummies, and Ghosts on the Cinematic Frontier is exactly what the doctor ordered to lighten up my current black mood. Published in 2012 by Scarecrow Press, the 300+ pages volume edited by Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper is a collection of essays on supernatural horror movies and TV series set in the West, and/or using western movie elements or tropes such as John Carpenter’s Vampire$. Indeed, the films set in modern times covered in the book are just as many as those set in classical western age. The book is articulated in three sections – the first about how the supernat...
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